Monday, March 26, 2018

Some questions for the Australian public broadcaster the ABC about the ABC’s coverage of Lawrence Krauss

Has the ABC to date, in any of its media programs, TV channels, radio stations or websites reported the various elsewhere-published accusations of sexual harassment from various sources and various accusers, at least one accusation in the assault category, against the American atheist, skeptic and science populariser Lawrence Krauss, either the largely suppressed wave of accusations that came out in 2013 or the recent wave of accusations of February and March of 2018?
If not, why not?

Has the ABC to date, in any of its media programs, TV channels, radio stations or websites reported the various elsewhere-published and currently-discussed accusations of serious sexual harassment about the prominent American atheist and skeptic public speaker Michael Shermer?

If not, why not?

Does the ABC plan to invite Krauss or Shermer as guests on any of its media outlets or programs in the future?
If not, why not?

Lawrence Krauss has been a frequent guest on many ABC programs. He has been a guest on ABC radio stations at least four times in 2017, at last once in 2016, twice in 2014 and twice in 2013, on radio shows such as The Science Show, Conversations with Richard Fidler, Late Night Live, The Drawing Room with Patricia Karvelas, Nightlife and Lunch with Myf. Krauss has also been a prolific guest on ABC television shows: at least once in 2017, twice in 2016, twice in 2015 and once in 2013, on high-profile shows such as 7.30 Report  Catalyst, Q and A and The Weekly with Charlie Pickering. If Krauss has been dropped from any list of acceptable guests of the ABC or has been added to any guest blacklist, does the ABC plan to publicly explain the absence of this very frequent guest of the ABC?

Just last Sunday the ABC saw fit to broadcast a painfully detailedand hard-hitting radio report about sexual harassment allegations against the otherwise highly respected Australian statistician Professor Terry Speed, even though these accusations have not apparently prevented Speed from keeping hisjob as Laboratory Head of Bioinformatics at the Walter and Eliza Hall Instituteof Medical Research. In contrast, it appears that the ABC has still to date not reported in any depth the series of accusations of sexual harassment against Lawrence Krauss, even though the various institutional reactions to accusations against Krauss have essentially destroyed his career and have apparently caused the cancellation of Krauss appearing alongside Richard Dawkins in an upcoming speaking tour of Australia and New Zealand. How does the ABC defend this apparent inconsistency in its reporting of accusations against Speed and Krauss?

Does the ABC believe that its viewers, listeners and readers deserve to be warned about individual famous people who are known or reasonably believed to have a record of sexual harassment or sexual assault, including celebrities who are connected to or associated with the ABC? 

During the many times that Lawrence Krauss has visited the ABC have there been any episodes of sexual harassment or other forms of misconduct towards ABC admin staff, ABC talent, ABC crew, ABC guests, ABC audience members or others? 

Is the ABC trying to "keep the lid on" any Krauss scandal associated with the ABC?

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Chalk and cheese

Lawrence Krauss on science:

“Science is a method for distinguishing fact from fiction. It’s a method for asking questions systematically and for answering those questions in a way that it’s possible to test. Science is a method based on empirical evidence.”

“Science does change; it’s called progress. However, science changes in a very well defined way. This is another big misunderstanding of science: we don’t throw out what has been done before; what satisfies test and experiment will always survive.”

“…science isn’t a set of facts, it’s a process for deriving facts….it’s a process that’s worked over the last 400 years to make the world a much better place in lots of ways…”

Ben Goldacre on science:

“There are really deeply embedded structural problems in science, which people in my own profession have failed to fix.”

I'm pondering whether one sounds more like the grown-up than the other, or is it more as though one views his audience as grown-ups more than the other, or could it be a bit of both? 

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Who looks like shit now?

I’ve been explaining my disappointment and anger in regard to the sceptical movement for quite some time now, but even I am surprised at the depth of my current level of shock and disappointment in this often-arrogant section of society who endlessly advise us about what to believe and how to think, and exhort us to face facts, but who mostly lack the courage to face the very ugly facts of consistently unconscionable patterns of behaviour of at least two leaders of their movement. To hell with these pathetic hypocrites. Rational thinking deserves much better PR than this pack of tools.

I think I was dimly aware of the rape accusation in regard to Michael Shermer (prolific science writer, historian of science, founder of The Skeptics Society, and editor-in-chief of its magazine) back when the matter blew up a foul stench among the blogs in 2013-2014, but even now I’m shocked at the stuff published back then that I’ve been reading recently. I had assumed there was only one incident/accusation. I had no idea, and I had no time nor inclination to delve deeper, as I'd already written off the skeptic movement as a bunch of jerks. I never thought I’d stumble across one of these rape accusations embedded within a suicide notepublished in a blog. Words fail me.

I’ve never had much time for Shermer’s mate Lawrence Krauss, so I was not so much disappointed as shocked by the sudden recent deluge of accusations of sexual misconduct that has swept Krauss’s career away like a tsunami of filthy brown seawater.  New accounts of episodes of his past misconduct continue to surface, and there's no telling when this wave of disclosures will end. Krauss has never been a hero of mine. I'm probably from a different generation than his fan-base. Nothing that I’ve heard him say has struck me as something that no one else could have come up with, and I don't like the way he seems to enjoy throwing in unnecessarily abrasive remarks. To most people I think the distinction would be lost, but I enjoy people who sometimes or even often can’t help but offend in their zeal for telling the truth as they see it, but I find it lame and offensive when some talking head tosses in an outrageous stab just for the sake of…asserting their dominance?...attention-seeking?

There is one thing that I feel compelled to write about Krauss after reading his response to the BuzzFeed article that blew the whistle on his misconduct – what an absolute gutless turd Krauss is for baselessly claiming in the very first sentence of his response (and repeating it later) that the accusations levelled at him defame not only himself but also defame the wider atheist and skeptic community. In my mind Krauss seems so much like the creep who doesn’t look so tough when his gang aren’t around, and he’s calling out for help while the blood drains from his face and his knees go weak. It wasn’t the whole atheist community who groped and propositioned and worse. Grow a spine and face up to your accusers, on your own two feet!

There’s not much that I can add to the accusations swirling around Krauss and Shermer as I’ve never met either, but I can state that I have been very disappointed by lack of media coverage of 2013-2014 accusations about Shermer and the associated reactions within the atheist/skeptic community at the time, and the recent accusations and fall from grace of Krauss. If I hadn’t taken an interest in these matters and done my own poking around on the internet, not seeking information beyond my usual reading of science magazines and newspapers, listening to Australian public radio and viewing of Australian news and journalistic television, I could well have missed the news that two American popularizers of science and major figures in the international skeptic/atheist community have had many very dark accusations thrown their way. Where’s the story on the Krauss scandal on The Science Show? Nowhere that I can find, but Krauss has been a guest many times over on ABC’s Radio National shows and has also appeared many times on ABC television shows such as QandA and Catalyst. Thanks for nothing, Robyn Williams and your cosy colleagues at the national broadcaster. It appears that the ABC only wants to be the bearer of nice news, and I can’t see any evidence of any other Australian TV or radio coverage of the Krauss affair or the Shermer controversy either. The Australian newspaper deserves the credit for covering Krauss’s fall, confirming my opinion that this much-maligned part of Rupert Murdoch’s media empire cover negative stories about medicine, science and academia in Australia that no one else will touch (such as successful CFS patient activism exposing crooked researchers, and cases of academic misconduct in Australian universities). Another gold star to The Australian for journalism from Lili.

Did New Scientist give any coverage to the Shermer and Krauss train-smashes? I can’t find any. Two of the three journalists who broke the Krauss story have worked for New Scientist during their careers, but their story was published by Buzzfeed. I guess New Scientist is a science news magazine that collectively views its role as only a cheerleader and reporter of science. I guess I’ve been na├»ve to expect more of it. I should have noticed long ago that there’s virtually no overlap between the unsavoury matters covered by the website Retraction Watch and the stories reported by New Scientist. The science news weekly mag apparently has no time for the grotty underbellies of science, science popularisers or academia. I guess if the magazine focused on the fallible people behind science rather than just looking at their work, the faith of the readers might be challenged or their ire provoked. Do we really believe that the status of science in society is such a fragile enterprise that science journalism can’t risk reporting a few serious cases of misconduct of a small minority of rogue researchers and the misbehaviour of a couple of rogue science popularizers? Is it possible that this one-eyed coverage of science by science media actually feeds into the growing problem of public distrust of science? I imagine that after a while I’d come to distrust any news source that only reports the sunny side.

So, much of the media are ignoring the ugly matters of Krauss and Shermer, even though some important questions about these men and their deeds need to be discussed or answered. I’m not an insider within the atheist/skeptic communities, so I am wondering how many major figures in these communities have a history of misconduct. Is the problem limited to Shermer and Krauss? As early as 2012 at a conference on Non-theism and Feminism Jennifer McCreight spoke of a group of male public speakers in the community who were notorious in the whisper network as unsafe company for women. It is high time that the wider public was told exactly how large this list is and who is on it.

Someone needs to ask w
hat was the role of alcohol in their misconduct? Accounts involving Shermer and sexual misconduct include plying victims with alcohol so that they became easy prey. One could ask whether Shermer himself has or had a drinking problem. How about Krauss? Is there a hazardous drinking culture associated with skeptics events? I have no wish to suggest excuses for misconduct, but one cannot deny that the addition of alcohol generally erodes character.
Another question needing an answer is whether these men are safe around children. I’m not sure what the youngest age among victims of Shermer might be, but many of the allegations about Krauss involve undergraduates at his university so I figure at least some are likely to have been aged 19 or younger, and of course, there is an imbalance in power between both men and their victims. One alarming fact about Krauss is that he has invited and received criticism by speaking in support of his very wealthy associate Jeremy Epstein, a convicted paedophile, in relation to allegations of paedophilia that resulted in Epstein’s spell in the clink. A disturbing fact about Epstein is that many of his famous associates, such as Woody Allen, Bill Clinton, Kevin Spacey, Prince Andrew, Donald Trump and Dustin Hoffman have themselves been the subject of accusations of sexual misconduct with underage people. So how does that make Krauss look? Shermer and Krauss are public figures and science popularisers. Without doubt they would have fans who are children. Would they take advantage of the esteem in which they are held by young fans, given a chance?
Another question worth pondering if whether the nature of their misconduct is limited to sexual behaviour. Accusations about Krauss misbehaving sexually while working as an academic are numerous, so one might wonder whether this lack of character extended to other varieties of academic misconduct such as falsifying data or plagiarism. Both men are authors of books. Is their work all their own?
In my opinion, the clear-out in the skeptic community won’t be done until Michael Shermer is cast into the wilderness to the same degree as Krauss’s recent ride to the margins, and their mate the legendary atheist and science writer Richard Dawkins apologises for his long-time support of these arseholes in words and in deeds. Perhaps Monday’s article about disquiet at Santa Barbara City College about a scheduled appearance at the campus by Shermer is a sign that after all this time he is being reviled for his misconduct by the wider community beyond the skeptic crowd.

Not so long ago secularist Australians such as Tim Minchin were demanding that Cardinal George Pell explain exactly what he knew and when he knew about child sexual abuse in the Catholic church to a royal commission (before this matter was overshadowed by the bombshell of allegations about Pell himself). One quite entertaining piece of Australian TV was an episode of QandA in which Pell and Dawkins were “head-to-head” in debate. Now the shoe is on the other foot, and today Dawkins is the leader who must explain exactly what he knew and when about sexual abuse within his “church”. Perhaps I’m expecting too much from a man who was struck down by a stroke a couple of years ago. Maybe I’m unfair to expect any more from Dawkins beyond his books that changed the way so many people thought and lived in the 1970s and 1980s, myself included, but on the other hand, stroke or not, Dawkins always had more than enough smarts to understand the gravity of the misconduct of his associates. Is an atheist allowed to hope for a miracle?

Sunday, March 04, 2018

A habitual liar, a rapist, a would-be rapist, a censorious hypocritical snowflake and misogyny all over the place....

....there’s no glossing over the fact that there are rotten things at the apex of leadership in the skeptic and atheist community